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If ‘Old Man’ is Redford’s last film, he made a graceful exit

By Leonard Heldreth

The films this month follow the exploits of a gentlemanly bank robber from the past and explore some very contemporary conflicts in black and white relationships.

The Old Man & the Gun

David Lowery’s most recent film, The Old Man & the Gun, varies from his previous films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, the remake of Pete’s Dragon, and last year’s A Ghost Story. Starring Robert Redford (who was in Pete’s Dragon) and with Academy-Award-winning Casey Affleck (who was in Saints and Ghost Story) in a supporting role, the film caps its stellar cast with Sissy Spacek as the woman who charms Redford, even though she can’t quite make up her mind about him. Then there are Tom Waits and Danny Glover as Tucker’s henchmen in the Over-the-Hill gang.
The Old Man & the Gun tells the story of long-time bank robber Forrest Tucker, who was jailed 16 times but kept escaping, even from Alcatraz. The script is based on David Grann’s 2003 New Yorker article and focuses on Tucker’s career after 1981. As an opening title card says, the story is “mostly true,” calling up echoes of a similar statement at the beginning of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Tucker began stealing as a teenager and just never stopped, because he enjoyed it and was very good at it.
Although he likes the money that the banks hand over to him, he admits he does it for the adrenaline rush of pulling off the perfect heist; he is addicted to robbing banks. Tucker has his routine down cold, and he is so polite and friendly with the tellers and bank staff that they tell the investigating officers what a nice man he was. He opens his coat to reveal a gun (the audience never sees it), hands the teller a satchel, and requests that it be filled. He handles all of this so serenely that most customers are not even aware that a robbery is taking place until he’s back out on the street. One of the customers who remains in ignorance during one of the hold-ups is John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a detective who becomes intrigued by Tucker’s smooth method of operation and tries to track him down…

 

The Hate U Give

An adaptation of Angie Thomas’s 2017 Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give takes its title from a Tupac Shakur song about the way hatred and violence, imposed on young people, come back to flourish and proliferate as the children grow up. The film, directed by George Tillman Jr., focuses on racial violence, police brutality, and the difficulties of finding balance with one foot in each of two worlds, but it also emphasizes how family and friends can help ameliorate the problems of prejudice, drugs, and race conflicts. It’s a very powerful and moving look at a subset of contemporary young adult life with which most of us have little direct experience.
This coming-of-age film focuses on 16-year-old Starr (Amandla Stenberg), but it opens with an earlier scene in which she is nine, her older brother, Seven, (Lamar Johnson) is ten, and Sekani (TJ Wright), the youngest member of the Carter family, is just a year old. They are sitting around the kitchen table where her father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby), is giving them “The Talk,” a set of direction on how black people should behave if they are ever stopped by a white policeman. All hands go on the dashboard of the car, and they keep quiet, not disagreeing with anything the policeman says. As we expect, failing to follow these directions will lead to disaster later in the film…

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